Waste Management
Laos, known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is one of the most impoverished countries in Southeast Asia. However, over the last 20 years, its economy has been one of the fastest-growing in the region, resulting in an increase in the amount of waste generated. Waste management systems struggle to keep up with this increased waste. Waste management in Laos is “limited to urban centers” and tends to be poorly managed with just 40%-60% of waste collected. Pollution affects the Lao people negatively, resulting in around 10,000 deaths per year, according to a 2021 study by the World Bank. With waste management emerging as a dire issue, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) are offering support to address the issue.

The Larger Part of the Issue

Around four million tonnes of plastic waste discharges into the world’s seas annually, mostly originating from rivers in Asia such as the Mekong, which goes through Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. About 70 million people rely on this river for food and resources, especially in Laos, though it is “one of the dirtiest in the world.” The Laotian lifestyle is transitioning from a “traditional and subsistence-based lifestyle” to a more urban lifestyle that focuses more on consumerism and imported goods.

The lack of waste dump sites and formal infrastructure significantly and directly impacts the health of citizens, especially when resorting to disposal practices such as burning, burying trash and discarding waste in rivers. Testing of the water sources across more than 3,000 households in Laos shows that  E.Coli in drinking water contaminated 86% of the household population. Furthermore, even for homes using bottled water, a staggering 85% of individuals had E. Coli in their bottled water.

Making the Effort

Laos citizens view plastics as a luxury item, portraying a sign of economic progression. However, this mindset also contributes to plastics becoming the second-largest type of waste, accounting for up to 24% of total waste generated by Laos. But, even as plastic and other wastes are prevalent, cities such as Luang Prabang are making an effort to keep the area’s streets clean. With the locals taking action to actively keep the city clean, these city-dwellers set the example for other city-dwellers in Laos. Responsibility is on communities and households, especially as Laos has a small budget for addressing the waste management issue.

A World Bank 2022 Get CLEAN and GREEN – Solid waste and Plastic Management in Lao PDR report recommends strategies to resolve the waste management issue. One strategy is to move from a linear to a “circular economy.” This would reduce waste by “reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products.”

The UNDP’s Work

The UNDP gathered a focus group of around 30 university students from diverse economic backgrounds, finding that close to 90% of students realize how poor waste management impacts the planet. The organization gave students suggestions for taking action, such as establishing task forces in communities and using social media to share information on helping as green advocates.

The UNDP also found that students who learned to separate waste in schools were eager to follow waste separation procedures. An online UNDP survey shows that social media would influence the mindsets and behaviors of more than 80% of respondents. The UNDP considers the immediate banning of plastic as critical.

The GGGI is aiding in solid waste management in the capital city of Vientiane, formulating a 10-year Strategy and Action Plan. It also has created four project activities:

  • Decentralized garbage collection services
  • A Waste Bank and the designation of the role of waste pickers
  • Organic waste segregation systems and private composting companies
  • Glass recycling involving 10 elementary schools to maximize waste disposal

Looking Ahead

While the Lao PDR transitions to a more urban economy and struggles with waste, organizations have offered solutions to support a more sanitary Laos, which will benefit the health and well-being of people. As education reaches citizens and offers them pathways out of poverty, Laos can create a safer, cleaner and more prosperous country for its populace. And if the country does lean more toward a “circular economy,” Laos could be on its way to reaching a net carbon neutral status by 2040.

Jerrett Phinney
Photo: Flickr

How Improper Waste Management in Vietnam Impacts PovertyOne of the top contributors of plastic pollution in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is among the several nations struggling to properly manage and dispose of waste. This problem has unfortunately affected the lives of many of Vietnam’s impoverished who work as garbage collectors. Researchers are now conducting studies to understand the potential hazards and consequences associated with improper waste management, providing insight into how improper waste management in Vietnam impacts poverty.

The Waste Problem in Vietnam

Vietnam currently generates about 13 million tons of waste every year. In the past, the country has broken records by producing 38,000 tons of waste “in a single day.” Vietnam’s administration now finds that waste production increases by 10-16% annually and that the nation mismanages about 85% of its garbage. This is problematic because as waste builds up over time, it negatively affects environmental conditions and contributes to pollution. Today, garbage is still piling up in Vietnam’s poorly constructed landfills and the technology incorporated to treat waste in these areas fails to meet basic sanitary requirements.

Vietnam’s Waste Collectors

Waste collecting is an occupation generally held by Vietnam’s lower class, a job that many see as undesirable. In Vietnam, many people have a very negative outlook on the idea of managing garbage for a living because of how unrewarding the endeavor is and how little it pays. As a result, those who find themselves working as waste collectors face significant prejudice and social stigmatization from their communities. While waste collectors often endure discrimination in their communities, they also have to live with harmful side effects that stem from living and working in poor and unsanitary conditions.

Health Effects

In order to determine the effects of waste management in Vietnam, researchers conducted a study by interviewing waste collectors from several cities and provinces, such as Hanoi, Thai Binh, Nam Dinh and more.  Participants were of various ages, with some as young as 30 and others as old as 65. The results showed that respondents suffered from musculoskeletal disorders and commonly felt side effects such as aches and fatigue. Some participants lived with gastrointestinal illnesses and had diseases such as dermatitis. Other symptoms include tension, insomnia and depression.

The effect of waste management on health is alarming because the most disproportionately affected people, the waste collectors, usually come from low-income backgrounds. This is significant because many waste collectors cannot afford healthcare and go about their days aware of this fact, exposing themselves to hazardous materials for the sake of a meager income. Waste collectors endure such work as their most significant priority remains financially supporting their families, no matter the risks. These circumstances illustrate how improper waste management in Vietnam impacts poverty.

The Role of Other Countries

As it turns out, nations such as the United States are partially to blame for the waste management crisis in Vietnam. This is because the U.S. and other well-developed countries engage in trade by exporting waste to less-developed nations. Notable recipients of these types of exports include nations in Southeast Asia, like Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam.

Though Vietnam receives a large amount of waste from the U.S., it did not import as much plastic before 2018. In previous years, states would send most of their waste to China and Hong Kong, which were the two largest recipients of these exports at the time. In December 2017, however, China implemented a plastic ban, meaning that the U.S. could not send as much waste as it previously did. As a result, the United States started reallocating the garbage that would have gone to China by sending it across multiple smaller countries.

Before China’s ban, Vietnam received nearly 49,000 tons of waste from the U.S. between January and June 2017. Between January and June 2018, Vietnam imported more than 71,000 tons of garbage, a near 50% increase from the previous year.

What Can be Done?

As much of the waste that Vietnam generates is plastic, many believe the country’s best option would be to find ways to reuse and recycle disposed materials. One example of this would be to turn plastic into products such as aerosols, which can have several applications in different industries. Vietnam can also learn from countries such as the United States by setting up material recovery facilities where people drop off recyclable items. Workers can then palletize these materials and deliver them to other recycling centers that turn plastic into smaller pellets, which there is a large market for.

Alternatives for Vietnam are to potentially consider new materials that could replace plastic. Many enterprises now produce biodegradable plastic and could help Vietnam by providing an eco-friendly solution. That way, the country could see a reduction in waste generation over the next few years. Similarly, Vietnam could also offer incentives for businesses to produce or switch to using biodegradable materials.

Although many of these solutions can positively impact Vietnam’s people, starting them up can be expensive. For this reason, Vietnam’s government is opening the country up to different industries with the hope of establishing business relations with other nations. If Vietnam successfully implements new policies and alternative solutions, the government can dramatically improve the lives of many of its people.

– Eshaan Gandhi
Photo: Unsplash

While it may not always seem like it, the services provided by the U.S. government are vast and exceptional. For example, Americans do not have to panic over the possibility of waste runoff contaminating their water or having to dispose of their week’s worth of garbage by themselves. For services like these, Americans usually have government-sponsored help that is reliable and guaranteed. However, what is typical in the U.S. is not the norm for developing countries. This is particularly the case in Uganda, where poor waste management leads to poor public health in Kampala.

High Cost of Waste Management

Creating sustainable and effective waste management systems is incredibly expensive. According to the World Bank, efficient waste management services can require 20% to 50% of a government’s budget. This makes such services frequently unattainable for municipalities in developing countries. Indeed, this is exactly the problem posed by waste management in Kampala, Uganda.

On the outskirts of Kampala is the Kiteezi landfill. Opened in 1996, the landfill was intended to last until 2010, but it is still in use today. Not only has the landfill been used far past its capacity, but due to rapid urbanization, the city has generated substantially more waste than originally projected. This has culminated in a dire state of public health in Kampala.

Waste Management and Public Health in Kampala

The lack of residential services in Uganda only serves to exacerbate this problem. Kampala, like many cities, is not homogenous. There are a wide variety of infrastructure accommodations, socio-economic conditions and community engagements involved in municipal services. Poor road conditions can make it difficult for collection trucks to pass through living areas. A lack of communication regarding sanctioned dumping sites can lead to confusion and improper disposal practices, such as burning waste or piling it in an area where the waste will not be collected or sanitized.

What are the repercussions of all of this? Firstly, it can degrade residents’ quality of life. Seeing and smelling waste build up is enormously unpleasant. Additionally, that waste buildup can have serious public health consequences. The burning of garbage can produce methane, exacerbating climate change. Waste sites are the perfect breeding grounds for mosquitos, which, for countries riddled with malaria, can make exposure to infectious disease much more likely. Rain can allow waste to flow into water sources and contaminate food sources, making illnesses like cholera and bacterial infections more prevalent. Ultimately, poor waste management in Kampala is a public health hazard.

Building a New Landfill

Currently, the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) is negotiating with investors to build a new landfill and work with the city to revamp waste management services with private contractors to improve public health in Kampala. This agreement will cap the Kiteezi landfill, create a new landfill with the city’s needs in mind and allow Kampala to utilize recycling processes to generate revenue for the municipality. This type of agreement is known as a public-private partnership (PPP).

PPPs are a popular way to get better services to more people, as these agreements allow municipalities to delegate certain services to companies that have the resources and experience to implement them. The End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act, passed by Congress in December 2019, supports the use of PPPs to combat similar issues. This legislation utilizes the resources and expertise of both local and U.S. governmental agencies, as well as private-sector health institutions, to combat debilitating ailments such as malaria and dengue fever in developing countries. Public health in Kampala, as well as in other similarly situated cities, relies on measures like the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act.

Much-Needed Funding

However, treating these diseases after their infliction is not the only way public health can be bettered in developing cities. Indeed, the best solution to public health crises is to cut off these ailments at their sources, which in many countries requires proper waste management and sanitation. According to The World Bank, investment in infrastructure, education and citizen engagement is the best path to making waste management sustainable and safe.

Whether this investment is through private contractors partnering with developing governments or urging the U.S. to increase its funding for international health projects, cities like Kampala need solutions to manage waste effectively to ensure the safety and health of their citizens.

Cecilia Payne
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Many people in poverty find ways to create income for themselves and their families. Some choose to work in a factory or sell fruit at the local market. For others, having income comes from sifting through garbage dumps to find sellable materials. There are some very large garbage dumps located in Sub-saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Due to waste distribution throughout a dump site, many people can sift through to find sellable items. These items can range from everyday plastic waste to copper byproducts. This type of work can be dangerous due to injury from objects in the dump or burning things that create toxic fumes. For this reason, charities such as Children of the Dump create opportunities for children in these situations to receive an education.

Payatas Dump

Looking more specifically at Manila, the city has a garbage dump that’s named Payatas Dump. The garbage dump allows people in poverty to sift through it to find items to sell. People collect the items, wash them if needed and then sell them for a minimal amount. Some people don’t just work in the dump, but also live near it since transportation can be expensive. The shelters created near the dumps are made from surrounding garbage and house several people in a confined space. In 2017, the Payatas Dump was closed, and many people lost their livelihoods. Some asked garbage truck drivers to dump garbage into the streets to scavenge enough for a small meal. This type of work doesn’t just appeal to adults; many children work in the dump to earn money for their families. As a result, many children of the dump are unable to have an education and some will sift through garbage their entire lives.

Children of the Dump

Children of the Dump is an organization created to aid children and their families who sift through garbage for money. The organization is partnered with another charity located in the Philippines and relies heavily on donations. Due to the lack of opportunities for these families, Children of the Dump provides three different programs:

  1. “Cashew Early Years” – Donations to this program go toward providing a free meal and half a day’s worth of education for 100 kids aged four to six.
  2. “Grapevine Outreach” – Donations to this program are given to families so children can attend local schools. This type of program gives children the opportunity to have an education rather than working in the dump.
  3. “Mango Tree House” – This program provides a place where displaced children can live and go to school to grow up in a nurturing and educational environment.

There are several success stories of children who were a part of Children of the Dump’s program. Two students, Danny and Jamaica, participated in the programs at very young ages. The two went on to become college graduates and are working full time.

Sifting through garbage dumps can be a way for people in poverty to earn income. However, it can prevent children in the dumps from having time to get an education because they are looking through garbage to earn money for their families. Children of the Dump works to ensure kids have access to education, helping students like Danny and Jamacia work toward future economic success.

– Brooke Young
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts ABout Sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Public health outcomes and economic status both rely greatly on a nation’s sanitation infrastructure. Sanitation encompasses the regular, efficient and safe collection and disposal of waste, whatever its source. Improper procedures and insufficient waste management facilities have led to poor sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but recent efforts show promising improvements. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  1. The political system in Bosnia and Herzegovina divides waste management responsibilities among different levels of governance. Responsibility for environmental policy, including sanitation policy, lies with both the federal government and the two political entities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republic Srpska, but not with the cantonal and municipal governments. The two entities and their constituent cantons formulate laws and regulations for waste management, while these two levels of government work share the responsibility of designing management strategies with municipal governments.
  2. At the federal level, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations (MoFTER) oversees and manages international initiatives and accords that involve the political entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the enactment of the Law on Ministries and Other Bodies of Administration of BiH in March 2003, MoFTER’s role also includes ensuring that the political entities follow basic environmental standards. As a result, the political entities do not have absolute power when it comes to environmental policy, with MoFTER acting as a harmonizing and coordinating force.
  3. The country’s two political entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, both suffer from a severe lack of operable wastewater treatment plants. Only two of Republika Srpska’s 64 municipalities have treatment facilities. Though the country improved biological treatment processes in 2009, the quality of these methods declined the following year.
  4. In 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina produced approximately 1,243,889 tons of municipal waste. This quantity measures out to an estimated 354 kg per year and 0.97 kg each day. Landfills received 952,975 tons of waste that year, a 1 percent decline from 2015. Public solid waste transportation disposed of approximately 920,748 tons of waste in 2016, a 0.1 percent reduction from 2015. The vast majority of waste in the country came from markets, street cleaning and other public sources. Packaging waste made up only 1.9 percent of waste in 2016, and household waste only constituted another 3.6 percent. Recreational areas, such as gardens and parks, generated only 2.8 percent of waste. Mixed municipal waste made up all of the remaining 91.7 percent, more than 844,000 metric tons.
  5. Registered local landfills serve as the endpoint for the majority of publicly-collected waste, but rural areas with little access to public collection services discard their waste in the far-more-common illegal landfills which do not follow sanitation standards. There are only 43 registered landfills in Republika Srpska and 44 in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but nearly 590 known illegal landfills. In legal and illegal dumping alike, the separation of hazardous and non-hazardous materials rarely occurs, posing a significant problem for public health in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  6. The unsafe conditions in a residential landfill in the city of Mostar, in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, provoked protests in 2019. Although it has existed since the 1960s as a landfill for household waste, recently it has allowed companies to dump dangerous waste products and sewage treatment sludge. Locals deeply concerned by news that the waste might contain hazardous toxins called PCBs prompted Mostar authorities to initiate an investigation.
  7. Despite some legislative efforts to follow the EU’s environmental standards, garbage pollutes Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rivers. The civil war in the 1990s resulted in the neglect of the country’s waste management infrastructure. A scarcity of recycling facilities has led to trash islands that now clog the country’s rivers. Locals report that organizations remove an estimated 800,000 tons of trash from the Drina river alone every year.
  8. In 2018, public waste utility KJKP Rad announced the planned construction of a recycling facility for electronic and electrical waste in Sarajevo, the country’s capital. The facility will also accept the city’s solid waste, construction waste and even soil. A hall containing presses and conveyor belts will process the waste brought by Sarajevo locals. Though electrical and electronic waste collection companies already exist, KJKP Rad’s new facility will be the first in the country to recycle waste deposited on site.
  9. In October 2019, the Sarajevo Canton Assembly discussed the creation of a waste incinerator as a solution to the canton’s waste management issues. Though the facility’s construction cost approximately 122.8 million euros, the incineration of waste would not only improve sanitation but also efficiently generate energy for the city. This prospective facility would greatly relieve the burden on the Smiljevići regional waste management center and would be one more step toward improving Bosnia and Herzegovina’s waste management and sanitation.
  10. International attention is also being directed at sanitation problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina. An initiative to improve the country’s waste management infrastructure with support from the Swedish development agency SIDA and the World Bank began in 2016 and offers several strategies to improve the system. Proposed policies include the design of a more feasible data-reporting system, expanding the trash collection fleet, designing and implementing better organized and less expensive waste collection systems, ensuring greater stakeholder involvement in waste management initiatives, improved communication with citizens, implementation of environmental taxes and even tariff reform. With additional time and data, authorities hope that these strategies will improve sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Since gaining independence in the 1990s, sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina has remained a problem. Public health hazards that also threaten economic stability emerged from the neglect that comes with political upheaval. Nevertheless, efforts made to address current shortcomings, such as the construction of new recycling and incineration facilities, herald a brighter future for sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

People Living in LandfillsIn the outskirts of Jakarta, a city home to 10 million people, sits the largest uncovered landfill in Southeast Asia, Bantar Gebang. In Bantar Gebang, mounds of trash sit 10 stories high. Shockingly, Bantar Gebang is also home to approximately 18,000 people, people who are living in landfills and who make a living collecting plastics and valuables to sell for their day’s wages.

The situation in Jakarta is sadly common. In the developing world, open dumps are the most common way to dispose of waste that accompanies economic growth. Additionally, developing countries account for roughly 80 to 90 percent of the world’s mismanaged waste. It is therefore difficult to visualize those living in landfills amid this mismanaged waste. However, this reality is important to confront because the lives of those living in landfills depict the complications of poverty in the developing world.

Living in Landfills

For many, living in landfills is the only option. Those who uncover valuable rubbish or recyclables can earn up to $2 a day. Unfortunately, this is considered a modest earning, as 1.3 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day. Recycling companies also rely on landfill workers, sometimes called ragpickers. Subsequently, there remains a strong economic incentive for these workers and their families. In fact, these landfill workers are technically the only means of waste management in many cities.

The living conditions of the landfills have damaging effects on workers’ health. Near the Ghazipur landfill in Delhi, a local doctor says she sees nearly 70 people a day with diseases linked to the toxic pollutants in landfills. Most families, sadly, cannot afford to relocate, because they are paying for medical aid and food.

Managing Landfills

As for the existence of the landfills, there seems to be no end in sight. For most of the developing world, exponential growth in urban populations has directly lead to increased production of waste. For example, Delhi’s population in India has risen from 12 to 19 million in the past 20 years. Over that same period, daily waste has increased from 8 to 20 million pounds of trash in the city dumps. The sheer growth in waste has inundated residents, local leaders and politicians alike on regarding what to do with these landfills.

Many politicians lack the power and popular support to battle the mismanagement of landfills. Some politicians and supervisors of landfills fear closing down landfills will result in violent protests from ragpickers who have lost their jobs. Moreover, creating sanitary landfills would cost Delhi $75 million alone. Turning to “greener” alternatives, such as waste-to-energy treatment, are inaccessible due to a lack of funding, regulatory protection, technical skills and infrastructure.

Regulating Future Waste

The complex issues that surround the landfills speak to the many different ways to approach solutions to the problem.

  • Political: In Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition launched the Municipal Solid Waste Initiative in 2015. This initiative aims to help city government draft plans outlining projects, such as introducing organic material waste diversion and education programs for citizen awareness. The CCAC has completed 30 city baseline waste assessments and 16 city waste management work plans worldwide.
  • Medical: Because of the toxic waste and pollutants in open landfills, UNICEF has begun working with primary schools to educate children on the importance of hygiene and sanitation. UNICEF seeks to do this through WASH (water supply, sanitation, hygiene) policies set out by the Indonesian government.
  • Economic: The World Bank works in a variety of countries seeking to bolster sanitation infrastructure through economic investment and funding. In 2012, the World Bank loans funded the rehabilitation of the main landfill site in Azerbijan, increasing the population the landfill serves from 53 percent, in 2008, to 74 percent. The World Bank also invests in building infrastructure in other countries, including Indonesia, Argentina and Morocco.
  • Sociopolitical: Buenos Aires, Argentina established a policy to be a zero-waste city by 2020. Like “ragpickers” in Bantar Gebang, 5,000 cartoneros in Argentina work in city-built warehouses, sorting and collecting trash each night. This allows them to work in better living conditions and negotiate prices with recycling companies as a collective entity. Buenos Aires shows the success of grassroots and people-first solutions that improve landfill workers’ economic, social, medical and political poverty.

Understanding the despair and dignity that “ragpickers” live with is important in understanding the developing world and building effective solutions, because the plight of landfill workers is not only monetary or political.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Pixabay

Water Quality in Mauritius tap waterThe Republic of Mauritius is an Indian Ocean archipelago nation just off the southeastern coast of Africa. The country is home to many ethnic groups, races, languages, religions and cultures. With such diversity, the country is perceived as a melting pot. The water quality in Mauritius is mostly safe, but it is not always up to international standards.

More than half of the water supply in the country is sourced from groundwater, and the rest is derived from reservoirs and lakes. Freshwater emanates from the country’s 92 rivers, 13 natural and man-made lakes and groundwater sources.

Surface water courses through water basins, while five main aquifers provide water for both domestic and irrigation use. About 99.4 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water, with per capita consumption reaching up to 190 liters of water per day.

Because tap water quality in Mauritius is reportedly dependent on the village locale, tourists are advised to avoid tap water altogether in favor of bottled water. However, a closer look at the country’s commitment to water security and safety shows that many steps have been taken and many are underway.


Improving Tap Water Quality in Mauritius


The Central Water Authority (CWA) of Mauritius is tasked with providing safe drinking water – or potable water – to all Mauritians. Water for irrigation purposes is regulated by the Irrigation Authority, while the Waste Management Authority (WMA) is responsible for managing wastewater.

In order to meet the nation’s water needs for all sectors up to the year 2040, the nation’s Water Resources Unit has worked out a plan to harness additional water resources. Construction of storage dams, diverted run-off from river streams and the development of ground water sources have all been explored in the plan.

Water resources are constantly monitored to check for the presence of contamination. Two laboratories in the country monitor the quality of the treated water supply to ensure compliance with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for potable water, as well as the quality of raw water resources. This has included testing of the physical, chemical and microbiological perimeters of the potable water. In this way, good water quality in Mauritius is ensured.

In an effort to promote more sustainable use of water, water resource infrastructure is being improved. This has included an analysis of canals, storage dams and dikes to minimize water losses and identify any necessary rehabilitations to the existing infrastructure.

Additionally, monitoring is conducted in the coastal zones due to the nation’s reliance on subsistence fisheries. Ground and lagoon water is checked for contamination and standards have been established for wastewater management.

As a melting pot, Mauritius brings many people together. This spirit is reflected in the archipelago nation’s existing legal and institutional framework in maintaining water security and cleanliness for all Mauritians.

High management of water quality in Mauritius ensures that proper water sanitation is maintained. With the implementation of future projects, Mauritius aims to accept present challenges, overcome constraints and supply water for all.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Pixabay

In today’s age of technology developments and exciting advances, there is still a population of up to 1.3 billion people living without access to electricity. The IEA, or International Energy Agency, shows that “this is the equivalent to 18 percent of the global population and 22 percent of those living in developing countries.”

While this is true, though, the world recognizes that energy is essential to economic development. UN studies have stated, “Energy provides mobility, heat, and light; it is the fuel that drives the global economy. But the production and use of coal, oil, and gas cause air pollution and climate change, harming public health and the environment.”

In response, studies have been made to find the most cost-efficient way to provide eco-friendly energy sources. The new power source that is currently being tested comes in the form of human waste.

To show the true potential of the source, the United Nations University created a study to find the value of human waste in terms of energy.

The study showed that “biogas from human waste, safely obtained under controlled circumstances using innovative technologies, is a potential fuel source great enough, in theory, to generate electricity for up to 138 million households – the number of households in Indonesia, Brazil, and Ethiopia combined.”

With that number in mind, the UNU’s Institute in Canada estimated “that biogas potentially available from human waste worldwide would have a value of up to US$ 9.5 billion in natural gas equivalent.”

The waste would be dried and charred, producing a sludge-like substance similar to coal but with the added bonus of being eco-friendly.

With all of these facts, however, the concept is still a major taboo in people’s eyes. To combat this, experts have shown that the world already reuses water and nutrients from wastewater and continue to fight for the new energy source potential.

With World Toilet Day on Nov. 19 being around the corner, the U.N. hopes to combat the stigma. UNU-INWEH Director Zafar Adeel stated that it will hopefully “promote new thinking and to continue puncturing the taboos in many places that inhibit discussion and perpetuate the disgrace and tragedy of inadequate human waste management in many developing world areas. This report contributes to that goal.”

Katherine Martin

Sources: World Energy Outlook, UN Foundation, UNU
Photo: Pixabay

Technological Solutions to Poverty
Technology is everywhere. Electronic dispensers squirt a predetermined amount of soap on our hands. Cell phones connect us to people across the world. Dishwashers wash our plates, planes transport us across the globe and video games entertain us. But technology has more uses than just entertainment or convenience. Modern technology can radically change the lives of the world’s poor by empowering and equipping them. Modern technology is one of the most effective solutions to poverty.


Innovative Aid: 10 Technological Solutions to Poverty


1. Mobile banking

Mobile banking offers the poor access to banking without transaction costs and without the need for a traditional, physical bank. A Brookings Institute Policy brief reported that access to banking helps the poor protect their assets and invest wisely. It allows them to save money without fear of theft.

Brookings reported that, “One study from the Philippines found that access to formal savings increased women’s economic empowerment by raising their influence over household consumption choices, children’s education and use of family planning.”

Furthermore, mobile banking makes direct cash transfer programs for aid organizations easier and more efficient.

2. Mobile health care

Cell phones offer access to medical information otherwise inaccessible to impoverished people. A recent Ghanaian project, for instance, targets pregnant women who lack access to information on how to promote healthy fetal development, reports the Research Council of Norway. Mothers receive weekly, automated messages designed to help counterbalance superstition and pregnancy-related myths.

“All they need to receive these messages is an inexpensive mobile phone,” says Jacqueline Møller Larsen of the Grameen Foundation in Ghana. “The health information they receive in this way can make a real difference in the health of both mother and baby.”

3. Access to clean water

Globally, more than 748 million people do not have access to clean water and more than 2.5 billion people have inadequate access to sanitation. More than 1,400 children die every day of diarrhea caused by unsafe water and improper sanitation. WaterAid, an organization dedicated to providing access to safe water and sanitation, writes that access to safe water would not only slow such diseases, but would also return an average of $4 of increased productivity per dollar invested.

Such advances are not out of reach and modern technology can create achievable goals for water and sanitation. Practical Action, for example, partnered with Kenyans from the dry, arid Turkana region to develop a solution to the area’s drought problems.

“We developed a solar-powered water pump that uses locally-sourced equipment to pump 30,000 clean litres of clean, safe water to the village every day,” the organization reported.

4. Improve farming techniques

Most of the 1.4 billion people who live on less than $1.25 per day rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, according to the United Nations. Technological advances in agriculture, from better plowing techniques to rice adapted from saltier water, can reduce hunger for millions.

“If we could get and invent new seeds, new mobile technology and open new data centers to help farmers connect their crop prices and understand weather variability we can do something transformational against hunger,” USAID administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah told TIME. “And not just reach a small percentage of the people that are hungry with food.”

5. Increase access to education

Many children, especially disadvantaged girls, in rural areas have limited access to education. And many of the schools that rural children can attend struggle with poor-quality teachers and limited resources. But new technology like solar-powered computers and projectors allow students to participate in real-time, interactive lessons with quality teachers. Ghana recently started its first interactive, distance learning project, Making Ghanaian Girls Great! (MGCubed,) with the support of the British Department for International Development in Ghana, reported Ghana Web. This program uses new technology to provide access to education impossible before now.

6. Better waste management

The ever-increasing urbanization in many cities of developing countries, such as Nairobi, Kenya, has overburdened solid waste management facilities and created littering problems. From recycling plastics to managing human waste, technology has the potential to transform the life of the urban poor.

7. Empowering through information

By 2015, it’s possible that everyone in the world will have access to a cell phone. The United Nation reports that more people in the world have access to cellphones than justice or legal services. Currently, more than 5.4 billion people have mobile phone subscriptions. Since mobile phones require only basic literacy, phones offer almost everyone in the entire world access to information and the opportunity to make their voices heard.

8. Improved transportation

Especially for the poor living in villages miles away from large towns, trips to town for water and food can take hours. Often, in medical emergencies, they cannot make it to hospitals in time. Many villagers that have bicycles cannot use them to transport the ill. Practical Action works with villagers to build bicycle trailers to transport up to 200 kilograms of water, food or passengers.

“…Whether its bringing clean water, removing waste or sludge, the bicycle still has the power to transform poor communities,” wrote Matt Wenham of Practical action.

The simple creation of a bike trailer has the potential to save thousands of lives.

9. Disaster relief and management

Natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes affect the rural poor most, as they often have no idea anything is happening. Using mobile phones to alert them of impending disaster can give them enough time to flee to safety. Bangladesh, one of the most at risk countries in the world for natural disasters, has implemented a mobile alert system in an attempt to save lives.

“This new initiative will mean that people will get an alert on their phones warning them that they are likely to face flooding or a cyclone,” Syed Ashraf, communications specialist for the country’s Disaster Management Bureau, told Reuters. “So they will then be able to take action like evacuate their homes and seek shelter in assigned places.”

10. Sustainable energy

Access to energy enables people to work their way out of poverty, access education and improve their own health. New technologies, such as solar and hydro power, can provide access to energy without building expensive power plants. Even simple technological advances, like fire-less cookers that rely on stored heat, can save the poor money and time.

“Just providing a few hours of solar lighting alone improves the human condition,” Justin Guay, associate director of Sierra Club’s International Climate Program, told Take Part.

Further investment in technological solutions by both private donors and the federal government could radically change the lives of the global poor.

– Sally Nelson

Sources: Brookings, Ghana Web, Practical Action, Reuters, Take Part, Science Nordic, TIME, Water Aid, IFAD, United Nations Development Programme
Photo: Businessweek

waste problem in haiti
Haiti is progressively becoming overrun with mountains of waste in the streets because there is absolutely nowhere to put it.

The trash and waste problem in Haiti is an ongoing nightmare for the people living there, with garbage filling the streets. Haiti has few landfills or dumpsters, and there is no apparent place to dispose of its increasing volume of waste.

The problem peaked in 2012, and imported plastic products were banned. These products were blocking drains and paths and clogging the streets so badly that there was flooding.

This flooding problem subsequently destroyed businesses, homes and other property. Stagnant water posed a serious health issue in the most impoverished areas; it allowed mosquitos to flourish and disease to spread.

The smell of the garbage and the poor overall appearance of Haiti (most specifically the capital, Port-Au-Prince) have destroyed the economy and led to extreme decreases in tourism.

In addition to being odorous and detrimental to tourism, decaying waste produces methane gas. When inhaled, this gas can cause serious long-term lung, heart and brain defects.

Most disturbingly, a report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also predicts that waste-generation rates will more than double over the next 20 years in lower-income countries like Haiti, where trash is already so abundant that people have to climb over or wade through it to get anywhere.

This means that the number of people migrating to urban cities such as Port-au-Prince will increase — a population spike that will manifest itself in the production of a proportionate amount of litter in the streets. This transition will require employment of a vital, comprehensive national management plan.

The most logical step to rid cities like Port-Au-Prince in Haiti of waste is recycling.

Volunteers and organizations in Haiti can gather the waste from the streets and exchange the plastics, papers, etc., for cash to help private businesses overseas. In turn, the waste can also be turned into functional packaging for the future use of Haitian companies.

This means Haitians in impoverished areas can exchange their waste both for profit and cleaner streets that will not flood or draw disease-ridden mosquitoes.

Citizens who take the time to make the streets a little cleaner can often make about $52 a week. This is not a bad wage, considering many of the people in Haiti can live off $1 a day. Their aid in cleaning the city will also help eliminate major disease and illness factors in the area.

A plan has been put in place to get more volunteers to join the fight to rid Haiti of waste before its urban areas become overpopulated. The country’s impoverished people can improve their streets, communities, environment and national economy by simply recycling waste products.

– Cara Morgan

Sources: Aid Volunteers, The Guardian
Photo: Idea Peepshow